Global marine insurance remain uncertain towards the future

Global marine insurance results indicate a modest recovery but COVID-19 adds uncertainty for the future, IUMI reports

the International Union of Marine Insurance – presented its analysis of the latest marine insurance market trends during its annual conference which this year is being held online. Marine underwriting premiums for 2019 were estimated to be USD 28.7 billion which represents a 0.9% reduction from 2018.

The USD 28.7 billion global income was split between these geographic regions: Europe 46.3%, Asia/Pacific 31.8%, Latin America 10.3%, North America 5.3%, Other 6.3%.

2019 saw Europe’s global share reduce slightly from 46.4% (2018) to 46.3% and Asia’s share increase modestly from 30.7% (2018) to 31.8%.

Covid-19 will show unexpected statistics due to Covid-19 situation

For global marine premium by line of business, cargo continued to represent the largest share with 57.5% in 2019, hull 24.1%, offshore energy 11.7% and marine liability (excluding than IGP&I) 6.8%.

Philip Graham, Chair of IUMI’s Facts & Figures Committee put the numbers into context:

“The numbers we are reporting today cover the 2019 underwriting year and are pre-COVID-19. In the past, we’ve been able to analyse trends to get an understanding of potential future outcomes but COVID is such a significant global event that it will inevitably impact on all statistics, including IUMI’s. Clearly there is a lag between IUMI’s reported 2019 numbers and the effect that COVID is having on the marine insurance markets.

The loss ratio figures as of 2019 suggest the start of a modest recovery in the hull and cargo segments and a continued fragile balance in the energy segment, but it is still early days and it remains to be seen how far COVID-19 will impact these trends going forward.”

Philip Graham, Chair of IUMI’s, states that pandemic has pushed digitalization forward with one generation

“One consequence of COVID is that people are travelling less and buying less. This has translated into a lower utilisation of certain vessel classes such as containerships, cruise ships and yachts. A direct result is the abnormally low level of claims incidents recorded in recent months. While this is good for underwriters in the short-term, we should be wary of a return to normality as untilisation begins to increase. Similarly, COVID has negatively impacted the oil price causing a slow-down in offshore activity. Underwriters need to be aware of the uncertain consequences of a return to more normal levels of production.”

“In my view, the coronavirus pandemic has, in a few short months, digitally moved many industries, particularly the insurance industry forward by at least a generation. In many ways this is extremely positive and we need to maintain that momentum as we look to improve efficiencies and manage down the transitional cost of insurance, driving a more flexible, efficient and inclusive environment.

However, we must also be mindful of how the pandemic has financially impacted many of our clients and the potential impact that could have on risk management. As importantly, we must not forget the sacrifices being made every day by all those at sea who as a result of the pandemic have continued to serve world-trade in extremely challenging conditions for extended periods and often without the ability to see loved ones for a considerable time with the associated fatigue and mental anguish that accompanies that”.

Global cargo premium amounts to $ 15.6 billion in 2019

The global premium base for the cargo market for 2019 was reported to be USD 15.6 billion – a 1.5% reduction from 2018. Exchange rate fluctuations impact most heavily on this sector and so comparisons with earlier years cannot be exact.

In general, cargo premiums are strongly correlated with world trade values but they have lagged behind in recent years. IUMI’s 2019 numbers do not account for the impact of COVID-19 but the virus has injected significant uncertainty into future world trade forecasts in terms of values, volumes and changing trade patterns. This makes it difficult to predict the performance of the cargo market going forward.

Loss ratios in Europe for the years 2014-2016 were particularly high, but all recent years up to 2019 were under the influence of an increasing exposure to nat-cat or man-made events combined with accumulations on ships and in ports which were not necessarily reflected in premiums. 2019 started at around 60% which demonstrates a modest improvement compared with previous years and is expected to end slightly below 70% if the year follows a standard development pattern.

Covid-19 reflects on cargo damages of vulnerable cargoes.

Loss ratios in Asia were stable until 2014 but then increased dramatically to around 60% in 2018; there appears to be a slight improvement in 2019 with a loss ratio of around 50%. In Latin America, the ratio is stable in the 50-55% range. Taken together, these loss ratios indicate the beginnings of a market recovery.

Increasing risk continues to blight this sector including man-made and naturally occurring incidents. Fires on containerships represented a significant amount of cargo loss in 2019 and has continued into 2020 with a major car carrier and VLCC fire.

Accumulation of cargo in stock and in transit has been exacerbated by COVID-19 due to port congestion and delivery delays. This is also increasing the likelihood of damage to vulnerable cargoes such a refrigerated goods.